Oscillating Tool Review

The oscillating tool is the secret weapon in your arsenal.  No it doesn’t replace random orbital sanders, sawzalls, or skilsaws, or jigsaws.  But like any secret weapon, the oscillator is the go to tool when precision and guaranteed outcome is needed. The oscillating tool is the scalpel of our industry.  Trim, sand, cut, chisel, scrape about anything you can imagine.  You can cut in outlets, flush trim mouldings, undercut trim.  In fact if I was restricted to one tool, it would be the mighty oscillator.  In micro these tools make quite a bit of sense.  In macro, say cutting down a tree, stripping 1000 sq ft of tile mortar, or sanding an entire set of cabinets you would want to use a dedicated tool.

Here is my review of the three I have used.  The Dremel, the Bosch cordless, and the Fein.

Lets start with the Dremel Multi-Max $99 at Home Depot

Dremel 6300-01 120-Volt Multi-Max Oscillating Kit

Lets just start by saying, I owned the Dremel long enough to know it wasn’t for me.  I did try and run this tool through several feet of flooring for a bathroom floor replacement.  The main problem with the Dremel is the tools weight.  It seems a third grader could wield one of these without a problem,  until you turn it on.  You might as well put sandpaper on the body of the tool as well and use that from how much the tool vibrates.  Plain and simple it needs more mass.  If I was cutting one small section, or wanted my arms to feel like jello, I would buy it.  The unfortunate thing about the Dremel, it isn’t the tool you will love, it is the tool that gets you by.

On to the Bosch Multi-X Cordless $179 at Home Depot

<Bosch PS50-2B 12-Volt Max Multi-X Carpenter Kit

I absolutely love this tool.  Imagine an electric Porsche, a battery powered tank.  This is what this tool does for a glorious 8 minutes per battery charge.  So if your job is small, or if power is lacking, buy this tool.  Its precise, adjustable, and perfect. I can even live with the lack of extended use, but for one fatal flaw.   Within three months the tool has already killed a battery.  My theory is that while the actual tool is up to the challenge, the Lithium batteries have not caught up.  Perhaps this adrenaline pumped tool is really your pinch hitter.  Bring it out, amaze the ones around you, then put it away for rest and recharge.  There isn’t a great accessory selection, but the case is cool, and the batteries charge in 15 min.  So yes, this tool would have a definite place in my truck box for that pinch hitting moment.  Oh one note, the batteries do have a 3 yr warranty.  I wonder if they will change that soon!

Lastly the Fein Multi Master $209 at Walker Lumber (Ace Hardware)

Fein MultiMaster 250

This is the tool that held the patent until September 08 for good reason.  I am always amazed when a new tool technology surfaces and creates change. This legendary tool started in the $800 range.  I purchased the starter kit which comes with enough accesories for most enthusiasts, but no case.  Thats okay for me, if I had to get this tool without a cord i would.  This Fein exemplifies mastery in tool construction, its the Porsche 911.  Having a jumpstart on the competition, the multi master has enough accessories to seriously replace well everything.  They even have a keyless version and a case if you don’t mind being freed of some more green.  This is the tool I am inwardly proud of owning, its the tool that I would create work around its capabilities.  Most importantly, it hasn’t let me down, or anyone I know for that matter.  Its strength, smoothness, and engineering are amazing.  For me, I would have fewer tools of this calibre, than an entire fleet of junk.  So yes, buy this one.  Spend twice as much to not get a case, but then again, why would you want to hide this tool in a case, or perhaps that is what they were thinking!

Comments

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27 Responses to Oscillating Tool Review

  1. Dewey October 26, 2009 at 9:38 AM #

    I just had a friend help me rebuild my front porch when he pulled out a Fein Multi Master. With the precise cuts and overall usefullness I knew I had to get one. I looked at your write up of the comparisons which I found the most useful. I was just about to buy a Dremel Multi-Max until I read your report. Thanks for saving me money and frustration. I now will shop around for a Fein.

    Again Thanks
    Dewey

    • chriscrimmins October 31, 2009 at 3:30 PM #

      Dewey,
      Thanks for the comment. In my mind, buying fewer tools, but buying the best is what makes the difference. Let me know what you think of the Fein when you get it.

  2. mach1mick November 5, 2009 at 9:59 AM #

    “DITTO” 2 Dewey

  3. Paul November 15, 2009 at 4:15 PM #

    do you have a recommendation from the $209 versus the $309 and $409 versions? It seams that the main difference is the quickconnect, but i’m not sure that is worth $100 to $200 premium……

    Thanks.

    • chriscrimmins November 15, 2009 at 4:32 PM #

      I chose the $209 version simply because if I was going to spend half as much again, or even twice as much, then I would just want to buy two of these fine machines. I really don’t mind the wrench, in fact it may be faster to remove the blade than with the disconnect, unless of course you include the hour trying to find it!

      If I was using one all day, then yes I would get the quick disconnect because inherently it might save you money by saving time once you got into the rhythm. Since I am not doing burnouts in this Ferrari, the blades stay on for a week or two. Leading me to my earlier point that I would just rather have two of them so that I could spread the love.

  4. kuhlmom December 9, 2009 at 5:34 AM #

    I purchased the Bosch multi-x PS50-2B carpenter kit- it Rocks! I did our replacement windows (sash pacs) and the multi-x was invaluable for repairs to the window frames. Well worth the $169 (I had a killer coupon)- We have used it every week for one thing or another – Great accuracy – solid tool – dropped it out of the second story window with no damage. Next project hardwood floors – the multi-x will be perfect for all those flush cuts & crazy angles in my house! I do have several other 12v Bosch tools so battery life is not an issue.

    • chriscrimmins December 15, 2009 at 9:11 AM #

      I am so glad the Bosch Multi-X is working well for you. I have several of the lithium Ion drills and I love them. They are very quality. Let me know if yours holds up over the next half year or so. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Randy December 18, 2009 at 9:59 AM #

    I purchased a Dremel multi-max kit when I was installing a pocket door. The Fein seemed over priced. The Dremel proved invaluable to me. I wasn’t sure how much I would use it but since that time I have sought out ways to employ this tool. So far I have used it while re-screening a porch, laying various types of flooring and repairing windows and doors. The precision of the tool is what I love most.
    Obviously Fein was first and the others are knock offs but I think I’m getting my money’s worth out of the Dremel.

    • chriscrimmins December 18, 2009 at 11:32 AM #

      Thanks for the reply. I am sure it will do fine for you and accomplish many well deserved tasks. If you ever get the chance though, just for kicks, run a Fein beside the Dremel. There is quite a difference.

  6. JERRY S. December 22, 2009 at 11:27 AM #

    I totally agree with you about the Fein MultiMaster. My wife purchased one for me as a Christmas gift (I opened it early) and began using it right away! Yes, she bought the 250Q which has the quick change attachment feature, the “top” kit attachments and the sanding attachments and the case, for about $400.00. Well worth the money!!! What a quality tool it is. The other oscillating tools cannot compare to the Fein. Even the carrying case is a quality product. This tool I am very proud of owning. I do not hide the tool in the case, I proudly display it in the case with the lid open.

    • chriscrimmins December 22, 2009 at 5:44 PM #

      Thanks Jerry for the comment. That is a very cool Christmas gift from your wife. This Christmas I hope to get a Jet mini-lathe. Hopefully! Merry Christmas!

  7. michael December 22, 2009 at 8:35 PM #

    Would you recommend the Fein for long cuts of HardieBacker cement board over a circular masonry saw? Thanks

    • chriscrimmins December 26, 2009 at 9:08 PM #

      Michael, I definitely wouldn’t recommend cutting that much Hardie with the Fein. My rule of thumb, when another tool can easily handle the task, use the other tool. The same way I wouldn’t cut the hardieboard with a nice chisel of mine. The only reason to use an oscillator would be if another tool can’t fit into the space. EG trimming along a tub. The oscillator is the ace in the hole.

  8. Alonzo December 24, 2009 at 3:25 PM #

    What are the meaningful differences between an oscillating tool and a rotary tool ? They seem to offer similar capabilities. Does one do some things better than the other ? I have yet to get a good answer to this question. Also, do you have a preferred rotary tool ?

    Thanks

    • chriscrimmins December 26, 2009 at 9:20 PM #

      Alonzo, that is an good question. An oscillator moves a blade in a linear fashion just a few degrees at great frequency. The Fein for example has a frequency of up to 21000 RPM with a 3.2angular degrees movement. Imagine wagging your finger extremely fast.

      The Rotary tool bit is fixed and simply spins at a high frequency. Similar to a drill just much quicker. They spin at 15000-30000 RPM.

      I use the Rotozip tool although the Dremel has been a satisfying tool to many. Because they spin, they can climb on what you are cutting so they can be less accurate. I will have to write a longer post on this soon. Thanks for the great question.

  9. michael December 27, 2009 at 8:36 AM #

    Thanks for the great info on the differences of the tools.

  10. Alonzo December 27, 2009 at 1:59 PM #

    Thanks for the info. I am going to check out the Rotozip to see what it offers !

  11. Joe Smith December 29, 2009 at 7:52 AM #

    I actually just bought the SoniCrafter oscillating tool http://www.rockwelltoolsdirect.com/sonicrafter/hand-tool.html, and found it to be better than some of the others you reviewed. I’d love to write a review of it for you to add to your site.

    • chriscrimmins December 31, 2009 at 8:06 AM #

      Joe, write away. The way I see it is competition is the recipe for improvement and excellence. Send it my way when you get a chance!

  12. chriscrimmins December 31, 2009 at 8:12 AM #

    This comment and review on the Harbor Freight Oscillator was emailed to me by Michael. Thanks so much for this review!

    “I recently purchased a Harbor Freight Multifunction Tool for an amazing $29.95 with a coupon in “Air and Space” magazine. Needless to say, the price alone will arouse suspicion as to its quality. Actually, the tool performs better than I expected. It is somewhat heavy, but appears well built. It is somewhat noisy, but so is the Fein. I have read several reviews that trash this product; most of them by people with preconceived ideas. One apparently valid criticism that has been mentioned in several articles is the tendency of the blades to come loose. I am pleased to announce that HF has addressed that problem by using a Belleville washer in place of the large flat washer previously supplied. Belleville washers make excellent locking devices, and this application is a great idea. BTW: the blades and other accessories now have 12 holes arranged in a circle around the central mounting hole. These holes, which engage 4 pins on the tool, allow the blades, etc. to be mounted at different angles.Be sure to tighten the center nut very securely to compress the Belleville washer. Also remember to orient the Belleville with the domed side facing the small washer and the head of the nut. This attachment system is somewhat inconvenient, but no more so than many tools with interchangeable accessories. (The Fein system is great)!

    Is it Fein quality? Certainly not. It is however, good enough for occasional use. You can always buy the Fein if you find yourself using the multitool frequently enough to justify shelling out the big bucks for the Fein. For the price that I paid, the decision to try one was a no-brainer.”

  13. Geo December 11, 2010 at 7:57 AM #

    You are missing a good and inexpensive option…the Germini oscillating tool sold by Amazon and other places. $35 shipped and it has excellent reviews. Owners love the thing! And it is practically free. 3 year warranty, yet!

  14. Jeff December 13, 2010 at 9:27 PM #

    I was just contemplating between the multimaster and the new rigid job Max just wondering if anyone can help me make that decision ..

  15. bill m January 14, 2011 at 1:15 AM #

    i just got the rockwell sonicrafter for christmas and i am very impressed. it has lots of power,it’s light enough to use with 1 hand but heavier and more solidly built than the others. it’s one of those tools your not afraid to throw in the back of the truck.it seems like more of a jobsite tool than a DIY tool it will take a beating.it also has an adapter so you can use other brands of blades like bosch and dremmel and fein too. i would definatly recomend it over the others you cant beat it for 120.00 bucks.got to try this one before you buy anything else.its not the fein but as close as it gets and for the price your gettin the most bang for your buck.

    • Chris Crimmins January 19, 2011 at 9:25 AM #

      I haven’t tried the sonicrafter yet, but I would like to. Thanks for the review Bill. I’ll let you know when I get my hands on one.

  16. bill m January 14, 2011 at 1:18 AM #

    if you have tried the sonicrafter let me know what you think. i’d like to here someone elses opinion i don’t know anyone that has it yet.

  17. Brian December 10, 2011 at 6:15 PM #

    How Do I find a killer coupon for the Fein? I shopped around $187 is the cheapest Ive seen. Any suggestions?

    • chriscrimmins December 12, 2011 at 6:53 AM #

      I don’t know of any right now, let us know if you find something good. Thanks

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